#354 Passion Fruit Curd

Well there goes the Great British Summertime, but don’t worry our Griggers is at hand to give us a little bit of tropical sunshine with this rather unusual fruit curd recipe. She must have been rather ahead her time with this one – I think the first time I ever saw a passion fruit in a greengrocer’s shop it was around 1990. I love fruit curd and am always on the lookout for new recipes – especially for the stall. Jane does suggest giving all sort of fruits a go; raspberries, gooseberries, apricots – knock yourselves out, she says (I paraphrase).

This curd is unusual in that it is made in the same way as custard:

You will need 4 large, 6 medium, or – in my case – 8 small passion fruit. Halve them and scoop out the pulp, seeds and all, into a small saucepan. Stir in 4 ounces of sugar and 4 ounces of slightly salted butter that has been cut into cubes over a low heat. Meanwhile, beat 3 large eggs (or 2 large eggsand 2 egg yolks) well in a bowl. When the sugar has dissolved and the butter melted, turn up the heat until it boils then tip it into eggs , furiously whisking to prevent the egg from curdling. Pour the custardy mixture back into the pan and stir over a low heat until it becomes quite thick. If you want to err on the side of caution use a double boiler or a glass bowl over simmering water. I found you don’t need it for this recipe, though I did use a thermometer so that I could get the curd as thick as possible without it curdling – you want a temperature of 78C (though Jane gives a temperature of 80⁰C, but I always find this too high for curds).

Remove from the heat, but mind you still keep on stirring it – the residual heat of the pan may still curdle it – then pass it through a sieve, making sure you work all of the curd out. Stir in a few of the seeds and add a tablespoon or so of lime juice to sharpen it a little. Pot into sterilised jars, let them cool then seal them. It will fill two 200 ml jars.

#354 Passion Fruit Curd. This was a strange one and no mistake. The flavour of cooked passion fruit is rather different to fresh – it’s weirdly not unlike fresh bread, and it took rather a while to get used to it. I ate it on toast, but I reckon it would have been a fantastic filling to a sponge cake. Also, they coordinated very well with my kitchen decor. 6.5/10.

#347 Sawce Noyre for Roast Capon

This recipe for black sauce was popular all over Europe in the Middle Ages with many variations and alternative names like sauce infernal. They all use fried and ground livers as a base. In England it was served up with roast meat; capon in this case was used as were various game birds. Other countries used other additional flurries such as Parma ham, dried ceps, onions or garlic and spread it on toast or bread.

A banquet in the Middle Ages – this is a French picture
though at the time French and English food was very similar

The recipe comes from a manuscript with the rather clinical name Ashmole MS. 1430, dating unsurprisingly from 1430. To put the year in context, Henry VI of the House of Lancaster is on the Throne; the political bubblings are beginning that led eventually to the War of the Roses around 20 years later. The original hand-scribed pages are kept in the British Museum, but the manuscript did appear in print along with some other 15th century cook books in the late 19th century.

Henry VI, the Child King

Jane doesn’t give the original recipe that she bases hers on, but I did find it online. It is written in Middle English and takes a little deciphering:

Black sauce for capouns y-rostyde.—Take þe Lyuer of̘ capouns, and roste hit wel; take anyse, and grynde parysgingere, and canel, and a litil cruste of̘ brede, and grynde hit̘ weƚƚ aƚƚ to-gedre; tempre hit up wiþ verious, and þe grece of the capon, þanne boile it̘ and serue forþe.

I translate it as:

Take the livers of capons, and roast them well; take aniseed, ground ginger, and cinnamon, and a little crust of bread, and grind it well all together; temper it up with verjuice and the fat of the capon, then boil and serve forth.

Going back even further in time to the very first known practical cook book – Forme of Cury – written around 1390 contains a recipe for mallard in black sauce.

I made it to go with roast chicken rather than roast capon and it is best made whilst it is resting so you can skim off the fat from the roasting tin and use it to fry the livers.

Pass a beady eye over a pound of chicken livers, making sure that there are no big gristly bits or little green bile ducts left on them. Heat some chicken fat in a frying pan and add the chicken livers. Make sure that the heat is really high so that the livers brown nicely whilst keeping the insides moist and pink. This should take about 4 minutes in all – though it might be worth poking one of the biggest livers with a slenderly-pointed knife to check that the liver is not still raw. Medium rare is good, but anything less than that could be risky, there are several cases every year of Campylobacter brought about by eating undercooked chicken livers.

While the livers are frying, demolish a slice of bread, crusts removed, in a food processor; or if you want to keep it old school you can grate it.  Tip in the livers and whizz again – old-schoolers can pass them through a sieve or mincer. Season with the spices: I went with a quarter teaspoon each of ground aniseed (you could also use star anise), ginger and cinnamon. Don’t forget the salt and pepper. Give it a final spin in the food processor.  The sauce will be very thick indeed – it should be a spreadable consistency and not in the least pourable. It looked like a big scoop of liver ice cream – except that it was hot! Strange.

Reheat the sauce and add some cider vinegar or lemon juice to taste (or verjuice like in the original recipe – you can buy it online). If it is really thick, let it down with a little water.

#347 Sawce Noyre for Roast Capon. This was a strange one indeed – it was made up of pure liver and was therefore very rich, though when eaten with a big piece of relatively bland chicken it did balance out better. The best way to eat it, it turned out, was to spread it on some bread as those in mainland Europe did. I liked the spice combination a lot, especially the aniseed; I may use it in chicken liver pâté. Aside from that though, I think this one’s left in the history books! 4/10.

8.1 Stuffings – completed!

Everyone loves some good stuffing – I obviously do because I have come to the end of the Stuffings bit of chapter 8: Stuffings, Sauces and Preserves. It’s not that impressive as there are only 5 recipes and one of those was a sauce. Nevertheless it is the first section that I have finished so I thought I’d give a little reminder and a review. Here are the recipes in the order they appear in the book, with their scores:


Winners: Oyster Sauce and Oyster Stuffing
That’s a pretty good average of 8.9/10 overall, so really do like stuffing! That’s the last stuffing-related double entendre, I promise.

I have to admit, I had never made my own stuffing before for roast meats. I always just used to use a lemon and some herbs to impart flavour into the meat, but now I am a total convert. The oyster stuffing with its accompanying sauce was the highlight of the five; it is so delicious, however with my fast-approaching return to England hot on my heels, I don’t think I’ll be able to afford to make again any time soon. Hey-ho – at least I got the opportunity.
Stuffing the Guard of Honour

The most versatile of the stuffings, at least according to Jane herself, is the Herb Stuffing; she uses it in three other recipes: #305 Guard of Honour, #263 Stuffed Tomatoes and Veal Rolls (not done that one yet!). Certainly that and the Hazelnut Stuffing are used by me every now and again. I have never revisited Parsley and Lemon Stuffing though.

The very strange Hindle Wakes
Although this section only has technically four recipes, don’t be thinking Jane had no repertoire – oh no – there are several dishes that include stuffings not mentioned above, some glorious like the amazing #175 Shoulder of Lamb with Rice and Apricot Stuffing and the frankly strange, like #339 Hindle Wakes (though I have to say I did bake excess stuffing rolled into balls which were pretty good).
So the good lady Grigson opened my eyes to homemade stuffing, but then I realised there were a couple of glaringly obvious omissions. When I think of British stuffing the first that pops into my brain is sage and onion stuffing. I can’t believe it’s left out. Perhaps Jane was mortified so much by the instant Paxo stuffing that we have all eaten at one time or another (I confess to love it!) that she ignored it on purpose. I bet actual real sage and onion stuffing is delicious though I have not even knowingly eaten it. Also, all the stuffings in the Stuffings section are bread-based. Where are all the delicious sausage meat ones? I know they can be heavy, and I am sure they regularly get undercooked in the centre of that Christmas turkey, but I think they are delicious – especially when cooked separately in a tray or as stuffing balls.
I shall rectify this on my other blog, British Food: A History, by finding good recipes for these (and the best stuffing ones from English Food too).

Well I may have finished this bit of the book, but there are still plenty left to go…

Other recipes using stuffing:
#262 Chestnuts as a Vegetable  (can be used as a stuffing)

#343 Oyster Stuffing and #344 Oyster Sauce

Oysters are rather expensive in the UK and it can be a rather arduous task shucking them, though in the US, they are much cheaper and often come in tubs preshucked in their own liquor ready for cooking. It is for these reasons that I have been trying to finish all the recipes in English Food that include oysters before I return to England in a little over a month’s time. These two are the final oyster recipes. Not only that, by cooking these recipes I have completed the Stuffings section of the Stuffings, Sauces & Preserves chapter. This might sound impressive, but if you clicked on the link, you’ll have seen that there were only five in the section, and one of those was a sauce!

These are two recipes that were made very popular during the Victorian era that put together shellfish and meat. I have grown to love this combination and so I was looking forward to cooking these. Past recipes on this vein are Chicken with Mussels, Beefsteak Stewed with Oysters as well as the classic Steak, Kidney and Oyster Pudding (and pie!).

I’m not going to blog the two individually because they cannot really be made separately. The first is a light stuffing made with classic stuffing ingredients like breadcrumbs and suet. The second is a simple béchamel sauce flavoured with liquor collected from the oysters used for the stuffing.

The quantities in the recipe are for a large turkey and it requires rather a lot of oysters – 4 to 5 dozen! You can halve the number if you are using the big Atlantic ones; it’s the equivalent to 2 tubs of the preshucked ones you see in supermarkets in the US.

If you do have to shuck your own, I have heard of a method that takes the pain out of it, though I have never tested it myself. Apparently, if you put your cleaned oysters in the freezer flat side facing up, they should magically open their shells after 10 minutes or so. The reason for this is that they go to sleep and relax their strong adductor muscle which you usually have to fight against with the shucking knife when you open them manually.

#343 Oyster Stuffing for Turkey and Other Poultry

Grigson says you can halve the quantities if using a large chicken, which is what I did. Even then, I found I still had plenty left over so I cooked it separately in an ovenproof dish.

First of all shuck 2 or 3 dozen oysters should you need to; do it over a sieve in a bowl so you can save the liquor for the oyster sauce. Chop the oysters, keeping the pieces large. Mix them into the other stuffing ingredients: 10 ounces of white breadcrumbs made from stale bread, 5 ounces of suet, 2 heaped tablespoons of parsley, the grated rind of a lemon, 2 heaped teaspoons of thyme, ¼ teaspoon of both nutmeg and mace, a good pinch of Cayenne pepper, 2 large beaten eggs, salt and pepper. It is important to mix these together rather loosely; there should be no dry breadcrumbs but at the same time it should not be mixed into to big ball of stodge.

Stuff the cavity of your poultry rather loosely – it will expand as it cooks – and truss the legs with some string. Also stuff it into the neck end too, if the flap of neck skin has been left on your bird, securing it with a couple of short skewers (I have noticed that the neck skin is usually removed in America). Any left over can be baked for thirty minutes in an ovenproof dish.

Roast the bird as normal, taking the total weight including stuffing when calculating the roasting time.

#344 Oyster Sauce

Open 2 dozen oysters, saving the liquor. Make a béchamel sauce by melting 2 ounces of butter in a saucepan then stir in two tablespoons of flour. Mix together with a wooden spoon to make a roux and cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes. This is a white roux, so don’t let it colour. Add ½ pint of milk in 3 or 4 parts, stirring until the milk is absorbed and the roux smooth before adding more, then stir in ¼ pint of double cream and the reserved oyster liquor from the sauce and stuffing. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring everyone now and again. This part could be done in advance if you need – make sure you cover the pan with a lid because a thick skin will quickly grow. Chop the oysters into good sized pieces and add them to the sauce. Heat through then season with salt, white pepper, grated nutmeg, Cayenne pepper and lemon juice. The sauce should be the ‘consistency of double cream’, says Griggers.

FYI: Mrs Beeton suggests using left-over oyster sauce in a fish pie which I think is a marvellous idea.

#343 Oyster Stuffing for Turkey and Other Poultry. This was amazing – the oysters were tender and the stuffing was light, the flavour being lifted by the fresh herbs and the aromatic lemon zest.

#344 Oyster Sauce. This was a beautiful white and well-flavoured sauce mildly spiced with a wonderful iodine tang from all that oyster liquor. Absolutely delicious.

I can’t score these separately as they would never be made separately; that said this one is a no-brainer: 10/10.

#332 Cherry, Plum or Damson Sauce

This is a piquant and rich sauce that is traditionally served with game, venison and tongue that seems very Victorian and English to me – there are many others like it such as Cumberland and venison sauce that came most likely from Germany via the kings (and a queen) of the House of Hanover (Georges I to IV, William IV and Victoria). We don’t really eat much of these sorts of sauces anymore, and we shall see if we should bring them back.
This recipe makes good use of seasonal European fruits: the morello or amarelle cherry (or sour cherry), plums and damsons.
Morello and amarelle cherry trees (Prunus cerasus)are easy to cultivate, and yet it is getting increasingly difficult to find fresh British ones sold at markets, though you can find them frozen or canned pretty easily. The English cherry orchard is a feature of the country declining greatly, mainly because of the competition from cheap imported ones from the Middle East and places like that. The morello cherry was introduced in Britain by the Romans around 50AD and were very popular in Tudor times. Will the English cherry ever return? Because they are so easy to grow and take up little space I shall grow some upon my return to Britain (once I have a garden of course!).

Plums, like the cherry, are of Genus Prunus and there are around 20 species used in several different ways, the species used in Britain is P domestica which is actually a hybrid of two other species. P domestica has been bred into several varieties including my favourite, the greengage.

P domesticus also produced the damson, our third fruit for this recipe. Damsons to me are the most English of all three, though I have never tried them before. I shall have to rectify that.

Here is how to make the sauce, whichever Prunus you lay your hands on.

Stone 8 ounces of morello or amarelle cherries, plums or damsons. You can use canned cherries if you want, just make sure they are in water, not syrup. This is what I used. Put the fruit in a saucepan along with ¼ pint each of red wine and port, a tablespoon of sugar, 2 cloves and an inch-long piece of cinnamon. Bring to a boil and simmer for around 10 minutes until the fruit is nice and tender. If you want, you can sieve the damsons or plums if using, but I think it’s better to leave whole. Now add 2 good tablespoons of redcurrant jelly and the juice of 3 oranges and a lemon. Season with black pepper and, off the heat, stir in an ounce of butter. Taste and add more sugar if needed.

I made cherry sauce and served it with hot tongue.
#332 Cherry, Plum or Damson Sauce. I loved this sauce much more than Cumberland sauce. The rich wines and fruit were only just off-set with the sugar, fruit and spice. Very delicious, you could almost eat it on its own. We should certainly bring it back! 8.5/10.

#315 Cornel Cherry, Rowanberry, Bilberry or Cranberry Jelly

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I thought I would have a stab at this jelly so we could have the traditional accompaniment to our Thanksgiving dinner. Even if it wasn’t Thanksgiving, it would have been the cranberry jelly I chose from the four possibilities; the other three not being available in the USA. It isn’t strange that the cranberry is on the list of fruits here: we Brits have been eating cranberry jelly with our turkey on Christmas Day for ages now – since the end of the nineteenth century. Prior to that, people either had goose (for Southerners) or beef (for Northerners), but they still may have had the jelly.

In America, of course, cranberries and turkey were two of the foods eaten at the first Thanksgiving dinner and they have become traditional and necessary fayre. They were not the only foods eaten on that day though; the feast also consisted of cod, eels, bass, clams, lobster, mussels, ducks, geese, swans and venison. I wonder why the turkey endured but the others did not. I’d quite happily tuck into some nice roast swan.

The four fruits that can be used in this recipe all have one thing in common: they are very tart and therefore great to go with fatty foods like roast turkey, goose, ham and the like.

Cornel cherries are not cherries at all but the fruit of a dogwood tree. They are only really used to make jellies in Britain, though other countries use them to flavour spirits. You can buy dried ones in health food shops these days as a super-food, but are unlikely to find them fresh in shops. They are native to Europe so you might just find some growing wild. I am no botanist, but I will keep a look-out for them on my return to Britain. These seem to be Jane Grigson’s favourite out of the four as it’s the only one she actually mentions in her little introduction to the recipe.

Rowanberries – the fruit of the rowan tree – on the other hand are very familiar. Rowans must be one of the most common trees in Britain; equally likely to be found in forests, parks and gardens alike. I envisioned making this jelly using rowanberries, who’d have thunk I’d end up in America? Rowanberry jelly is traditionally eaten with venison or lamb. It seems crazy with so much of it just growing wild everywhere it isn’t put it to good use. Next Autumn I will make some.

Bilberries are more common in Scotland and Ireland than England and Wales, though some are found in the northern climes. They are similar to the American blueberry, but they are much darker and have a very dark blue flesh. If you can’t find any bilberry bushes, you might be lucky to find the fruit at farmers’ markets, but they’ll probably cost you an arm and a leg; they spoil easily and the plant cannot be cultivated with much success. The bilberry is the only fruit of the four that can be eaten unsweetened.

It might surprise you to learn that the cranberry is not a New World fruit (it surprised me!). There are several species of them around the globe. When we think of cranberries we think of the large plump ones from America, but two species are found in the UK and are smaller, paler and more tart that their American cousins; one is found across the whole of the country, and the other is just found in Northern Scotland. If you buy cranberries at a supermarket, however, they will be the American species.

Whichever fruit you choose make sure you give them a good wash and pick out any bits of twigs and leaves. Weigh them and then cut up the same weight of apples – don’t peel or core them though, just chop them up. Use a tart apple; Bramley or Cox if you are in Britain, Macintosh if in the USA. Put all the fruit in a large pot and cover with water.
Bring it up to the boil and simmer until the whole thing has become a nice mushy pulp. Whilst it is cooking, set up a jelly bag over a bowl. If you don’t have a jelly bag and stand, use a large piece of muslin or even a pillowcase. Ladle the mush into the muslin and let the clear juice drip through.
It is best to hang it on a cupboard door if you don’t have a stand. Be patient now: if you add any pressure to the pulp it will make your jelly cloudy. On the other hand, it will make it more flavourful, so it is a trade-off. Grigson goes for the squeeze. I did not, for these cranberries were not precious, but bilberries for examples are, so I would want as much flavour as possible.

When the juice has dripped through, measure the amount of juice you have, return it to a cleaned pan and add a pound of sugar for every pint of juice. Bring to a boil and then to ‘setting-point’. Setting point is when the natural pectin in the apples and berries forms a gel. To achieve this, you need to get the temperature to 104C (221F) and keep it there for a few minutes. If there was a lot of water in the juice, it will take a while to reach the correct temperature. If you don’t have a thermometer you can use a cold metal spoon – dip it in the boiling jelly and push with your finger, if it wrinkles, the juice is now a jelly. If you turn the heat down under the pan, you’ll also notice the surface trying to gel over. Skim off any scum that the jelly produced and pot into sterilised jars. To sterilise jars, put them and their lids on a tray in a cool oven for 35 minutes. Soak any rubber seals in boiling water.

#315 Cornel Cherry, Rowanberry, Bilberry or Cranberry Jelly. This was a very good jelly – nice and tart and not overly-sweet like some of the bought ones are. It is a shame that I didn’t pick any from the wild, but never mind. It’ll be good with turkey for Thanksgiving and all the other meats and cheeses I’ll be eating on the lead up to it. There’s something very satisfying about making jams and jellies, I think it is because there are just three ingredients – fruit, sugar and water – and they magically become transformed into delicious, clear rubies shining away in their little jars. Pretty and delicious. 8/10

#294 Preserved Spiced Oranges (Part II)

Do you remember that time I lived in Texas? It seems like an age away, but it was only three months ago that I packed up my stuff and headed for Missouri. I remember gingerly packing my tins and bottles of various foods, hoping they wouldn’t get broken in the move. Amongst them were the jars of the Preserved Spiced Oranges I made in Maytime. I decided it was about time to try them. I admit I was putting them off rather – the last orange-based recipe was Soyer’s Orange Salad, which basically slices of raw orange sat in brandy, and it shall not be made again.
Anyways, these orange slices are to be served with hot or cold pork, duck, ham – I expect goose too. I decided roast a duck to mark the occasion of opening up a jar of these oranges. Oddly, there is no recipe for roast duck in English Food. Therefore, as it is an omission, I shall be adding my own recipe to the other blog (and here is the link). Though it is worth mentioning that I used a bit of the syrup from the jar to flavour my gravy. Grigson also mentions that the leftover syrup makes a great sauce for duck.
#294 Preserved Orange Slices. Well I do wish I hadn’t left trying these for so long, for they were delicious! The oranges had become very tender, without any bitterness at all. They were wonderfully warmingly sweet with the now well-infused cinnamon, cloves and mace. All that sugar and spice was cut beautifully by the white wine vinegar. Good work, Griggers! 8.5/10.

#306 Mint Sauce

Ah, mint sauce. I love mint sauce, but have never actually made it myself. Mint sauce is, of course, the sauce to go with roast lamb, especially during the summer months. Though, I remember as a child when I used to go swimming with my Dad on a Sunday to Morley Swimming Baths, I always had a chip butty smothered in mint sauce straight afterwards.

The piquant sauce goes so well with fatty or rich foods. St Hildegarde, a German spiritualist nun of the early Middle Ages, said this of mint: “Like salt, when used sparingly, it tempers foods…[M]int, added to meat, fish or any other food, gives it a better taste and is a good condiment; it warms the stomach and ensures good digestion.”

I reckon that this is true, and by adding somesweetness and mild vinegar, you can get away with using it more than sparingly.
St Hildegard (1098-1179) depicted having a nice sit down
Griggers emphasizes that this sauce must be made with freshly boiled water and wine vinegar, not malt as it is far too harsh. We always used malt vinegar in our house when ‘diluting’ the thick sauce that came out of a jar. Let’s see how the proper stuff tastes like…
Chop up enough mint leaves to fill a measuring jug to the quarter-litre mark. Add three tablespoons of boiling water, stir and let the mint infuse into the water. When it is just warm, stir in three level teaspoons of sugar and four tablespoons of wine vinegar (any kind, though I went with red, as that’s all there was!). Stir to dissolve the sugar and add more sugar of vinegar if you like. I found the amounts given to be right on the button, myself.
#306 Mint Sauce. Excellent, excellent excellent! Sweet, sour and wonderfully aromatic. I am never, ever going to buy mint sauce again. Go and make some. 10/10

#294 Preserved Orange Slices (part 1)

These oranges are flavoured with a heady mix of cinnamon, mace and cloves; quite a wintery combination, I suppose. In Victorian times, the orange was the most prized Christmas gift and British children would have waited with baited breath to get their hands on them. This did not apply to Irish children though – a little earlier in history, William of Orange’s extreme anti-Catholic laws were so unpopular that the Irish people made a declaration that no orange tree would ever be planted in Irish soil.

William III of Orange (aka ‘King Billy’ by Irish Protestants)
In Europe, the best oranges have always come from Spain, and so it is no surprise that the first orange plantation in America was also Spanish. It was, of course, in Florida and it was built in 1579. After a few years of settlement, orange trees were discovered all over the forests, causing the surprised Spanish settlers to conclude that the orange must have been native to America! It turned out to not be the case – Native Americans had been stealing oranges and spitting the pips as they ate them.

I had been planning on doing these preserved oranges for a while as they are an accompaniment to pork and duck, my two new favourite meats, thanks to recent recipes here in the blog. I’ve only just gotten round to making them because a spice required for the recipe is mace – in the form of blades. Tricky, as supermarkets don’t stock them. However, now I have a car I could pop to The Heights area of Houston and visit Penzey’s spices. What a great shop! Every spice and spice blend you could ever need. Luckily, there is a store in St Louis, so I can keep myself stocked up when I move there. My favourite bit was Granny’s Kitchen which had all the baking spices.

Anyway, enough waffle. Here’s the recipe…

Begin by slicing 10 large oranges – keep them thick, about a centimetre is good – place them in a large pan and cover them with water.

Bring to a boil, cover and simmer gently for 30 to 40 minutes until the peel has softened. Don’t stir the oranges around as they will break up. Meanwhile, in another pan, dissolve 2 ½ pounds of granulated sugar in a pint of white wine vinegar. Add 1 ½ sticks cinnamon, a heaped teaspoon of cloves and 6 blades of mace to the vinegar syrup and boil for a total of 3 or 4 minutes.

When the oranges are done, drain them, reserving the orange liquor. Return the oranges to their pan and pour over the syrup to cover – if there isn’t enough, use some of the orange liquor. Cover, bring to simmering point and cook gently for a further 25 to 30 minutes.

Take off the heat and leave for 24 hours. Next day, pot in sterilised jars. Top up with syrup over the next or two, should they need to be. Here’s the catch though folks: you now have to leave them for at least 6 weeks to mature! When the time is up, they can be served with hot or cold pork, ham or duck. The syrup also makes a good sauce for duck too. Apparently.

#294 Preserved Orange Slices. Well we shall have to have a bit of patience over these. It’s strange to think that when they are ready, I’ll be living in St Louis. I can say that the syrup is delicious though. Look here for the results.

#286 Candied Peel

From the odds and sods part of the last chapter of the book this one. I’ve never been particularly moved to make candied peel because I usually bake cakes on a whim and don’t really consider thinking ahead and making the chopped peel required for fruit cakes et cetera. This has all changed now I am in the United States of America. If you buy candied fruit for your cakes here they will not only contain citrus peel but also invariably a good proportion of glace cherries and pineapple. Now don’t get all tetchy America; I’m not dissing your candied fruits. Sheesh! In fact I prefer your version, but it’s just not English now, is it? And that simply will not do for the purposes of my blog.
This recipe uses the peel of two grapefruit or one ‘large, fine’ pomelo (you can get these at Asian supermarkets pretty easily) or four oranges. Slash the skins and remove the peel, pith and all. I suppose it’s a good way of using up the peel of citrus fruits instead of just throwing them away. I suppose you can follow this recipe and candy pretty much anything you like. Lemons would work. Or citrus slices. I once saw loads of whole candied fruits like plums and peaches and things like that for sale in Harrods at extortionate prices.
Back in Tudor times, people went crazy for candied fruits and it is during these times when recipes for mince pies and Christmas pudding were borne. This was due to the sudden supply of sugar from sugar cane from the West Indies. A very popular dish at the time was sweet custard tart with candied fruits and candied fish! The fools. Plus, to have black teeth was very much the rage; this meant you could afford to plenty of sugar!
Once you have removed the peels, boil them, covered, for a good fifteen minutes. Drain them and repeat this process once, twice, or thrice again until the peel is tender and the bitterness is ‘at a palatable level’. Now drain them and let them cool.
 Now either leave them as they are or cut into strips. You can use the strips as an after dinner sweetmeat if you like. If so cut them into nice neat long rectangles if you want to do that. Dissolve ten ounces of white sugar in a quarter of a pint of water in a saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil and add the peel. Boil steadily, stirring occasionally until all the syrup has been absorbed. This takes around half an hour.
Now drain the peel in a metal sieve and then leave to cool, spread out on kitchen paper.
Keep them in an airtight tub and chop whenever required for cakes. You can roll them in some more sugar or dip them in melted chocolate to serve with coffee if you like.
#286 Candied Peel. I quite enjoyed making these – quite a therapeutic process; just right for a Sunday afternoon activity. Easy too – I was expecting it to be tricky. I was imagining a spluttering tub of boiling sugar and third degree burns, but it was all quite tame. I haven’t used them for anything yet, but I did have a taste and they were very, very good. Very sweet of course, but still had lots of zesty zing left in there and a million miles away from the bought stuff. What shall I candy next? Suggestions below please! 8/10.